Workforce, public transit and criminal justice reform are just a few topics Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris tackled in his State of the County address Friday.
Education remains the top priority for Mayor Lee Harris, but he says our city’s public transit system is one of the most important public assets we have. He wants to improve the county’s office of re-entry and scrap and build a brand new juvenile detention center.
“We have real challenges in our county. $950,000 people live in the county and 200,000 of those live in poverty. But we also have people who are committed to making the difference,” Mayor Lee Harris explained.
Mayor Harris spoke about his dedication to the Mid-South workforce in his State of the County Address.
“Instead of tax breaks when it comes to economic development, I believe the focus most of the time should be investment in public assets and in people,” Mayor Harris said.
Just this week, the county opened a third American Jobs Center to help people get hired. Mayor Harris is also planning to ask Shelby County Commissioners to invest new dollars into MATA. He scraped the previous administration’s sewer plan and implemented a new one, but a major barrier that remains is criminal justice reform.
“The criminal justice system is our second highest category of local spending only behind education,” Mayor Harris said. “The average daily cost to house them is $100 per day.”
And Mayor Harris says many of them stay there because they simply have no money for bail.
“You got to do prevention on these youth instead of just locking them up. That’s not a solution, that’s just a situation where that’s a last resort,” said Coleman Thompson, Executive Director of the Pyramid Recovery Center.
Building a new detention center remains a top priority for Mayor Harris. Currently, the facility has 135 beds.
“We’ll be pushing the idea that the next facility should be smaller, fewer beds in order to force everyone in this community to begin to look for alternatives to incarceration,” Mayor Harris said.
Mayor Harris announced a pilot project tonight. He wants to create a youth assessment center and that will be a place that law enforcement can use instead of arresting youth and sending them to court.